What’s a few billion between friends? You can download the details below – more than 100 pages of them – but here are the bottom lines of the 2013 reprogramming requests the Pentagon has submitted to Congress: For fiscal year 2013, the administration wants “reprogramming authority” to reshuffle an extraordinary $9.6 billion between accounts in… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: What homemade roadside bombs could do to Army and Marine ground vehicles was the ugly surprise of the last decade. What sophisticated long-range missiles could do to Navy aircraft carriers could be the ugly surprise of the next. “I think it would almost follow like the night to the day,” Rep. Randy Forbes told me in a recent interview. “The last decade… we asked a disproportionate sacrifice from the Army and Marine Corps,” he went on. “The next decade’s going to be the decade of seapower and projection forces, [and] some of those ugly surprises we see bits and pieces of already.”
As chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, Forbes wants to refocus fellow legislators, the Pentagon, and, for that matter, the media from a narrow debate over the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to a wider look at all the capabilities that a carrier can support. That includes not just traditional manned fighters like the F-35, but also unmanned drones like the X-47B and the future UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System), electronic warfare aircraft like the EA-18G Growler, and even cyber attacks. Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: The rumor has been rife for weeks: Cyber Command is about to be elevated to a command equal to the powerful regional combatant commands such as Central and Pacific Commands.
This would make what many observers regard as the natural maturation of the increasingly important command, as well as its separation from the Intelligence Community. But in his prepared testimony today, Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, signaled the Pentagon that — while he knows “there is a proposal before the Secretary of Defense to elevate Cyber Command” — he has concerns about the command remain given “the immaturity of the command and cyber policy framework.” That seems to be a reference to the administration’s continuing failure to clearly delineate the chain of command and separation of operations between the military, the intelligence community and domestic bodies such as the Department of Homeland Security. Keep reading →
PENTAGON: Technology is a two-edged sword, and it can cut the hand that wields it in unexpected ways. For a generation, ever since the first Gulf War, the information age has been America’s big advantage, arming the US military with everything from smart bombs to remotely piloted drones to supply databases. But even low-tech Iraqi insurgents could pick up Predator video transmissions from time to time, and potential adversaries from China to Iran are far more capable in cyberspace. So as the all-consuming commitment to Afghanistan winds down, the armed services have started looking hard at the perils and potential of their dependence on computer networks — none more so than the US Navy.
The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, has increasingly emphasized the intersection of the brave new world of cyber with the Navy’s longstanding strengths in electronic warfare, most recently in an editorial published on this website yesterday. To flesh out the CNO’s vision, I sat down with Greenert’s point man on the coming war of electrons, Rear Adm. William Leigher. A veteran cryptologist who went on to serve at Fleet Cyber Command, Leigher now bears the jaw-breaking title of “director of warfare integration for information dominance,” known in Navy shorthand as N2/N6F. It’s his job to keep up with the staggering pace at which information technology advances. Keep reading →
Adm. Jonathan Greenert is Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy’s most senior officer. Greenert has emphasized the convergence between traditional electronic warfare — long a strong suit of the Navy — and the new arena of cyberspace. In this op-ed written for Breaking Defense, the admiral argues that “cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum” must be viewed as a single domain of warfare on par with land, sea, air, and space. Click here to read more from Greenert’s chief cyber aide, Rear Adm. William Leigher. — The Editors.
An unmanned aircraft is returning to its ship when it suddenly loses control, plummeting 5,000 feet to the water and shattering on contact with the surface. Halfway around the world, the lighting at an airfield in North America flickers several times before finally going dark, forcing airliners to seek out an alternate airport to land. In a windowless control room, system administrators at a large international corporation are alerted to higher than normal internet traffic on their servers: Before they can intervene, files which hold the key to a new cancer-fighting drug are exfiltrated via the company’s wireless network, placing 10 years of research and more than a billion dollars of investment at risk. These kinds of events, although uncommon, do happen – and they arise from our dependence on the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum.
The electromagnetic spectrum is an essential – and invisible – part of modern life. We unlock our car and control our television with remote controls, routinely communicate using smart phones, and avoid automobile or aircraft collisions with any number of electronic sensors. EM transmissions and cyberspace are also essential to modern warfare. Our military forces use wireless computer networks to coordinate operations and order supplies, use radars and sensors to locate each other and the enemy, and use electronic jammers to blind enemy radars or disrupt their communications.
With wireless routers or satellites part of almost every computer network, cyberspace and the EM spectrum now form one continuous environment. This environment is so fundamental to naval operations, and so critical to our national interests, that we must treat it on par with our traditional domains of land, sea, air, and space. In fact, future conflicts will not be won simply by using the EM spectrum and cyberspace, they will be won within the EM spectrum and cyberspace. This will require changes to our operating concepts, military systems and – most importantly – a new way of thinking in our Navy.
From primitive tool to double-edged sword
Our use of the electromagnetic spectrum has changed dramatically since Heinrich Hertz discovered it in 1888. Right away, EM transmissions were used to communicate with ships at sea. But in 1922, Naval Research Laboratory scientists also used radio waves to detect a moving ship, creating radio detection and ranging, or radar. With war raging in Europe and East Asia, in 1939 the new technology was sent to USS New York for testing and experimentation. Based on the successful results, radars were soon installed throughout the fleet and became pivotal to winning the war at sea.
Since World War II, the military pioneered new uses for the EM spectrum, from satellite navigation and radar jammers to short-range wireless networks and infrared missile seekers. Now computer processors and transmitters are inherent in almost all our shipboard equipment, and even mechanical systems such as gas turbine engines and guns are “on the grid.”
The EM spectrum is also an integral part of our military and civilian computer networks. Just like in our homes or in a Starbucks, a wireless network provides mobility. We can keep far-flung forces, aircraft and ships connected with each other and commanders back home, but wireless systems also provide ways to access a network that is otherwise isolated from the wider internet. Navy forces have a unique opportunity to exploit (or be exploited by) this access because of their presence around the world and ability to closely approach opponents via the sea.
Commanding the electromagnetic and cyber environment
America’s key military advantage for the last twenty years has been our ability to sense and create a picture of our surroundings, then use that picture to control the air, sea, and undersea domains. The systems that build our operational picture have performed well in the relatively unchallenged EM environments of Iraq and Afghanistan, but in future conflicts that will not be the case.
Inexpensive jammers, signal detectors, computer processors and radios make it easier for unfriendly states, terrorists, and criminals to manage their efforts while jamming our own ability to sense and communicate. Meanwhile, the number of users in the EM spectrum has grown dramatically over the last two decades. The result is an environment we struggle to sense, understand and use in warfare. We need a concerted effort to harness the EM and cyber environment to give us a warfighting edge.
First, we will improve our awareness of the EM and cyber environments. We will detect and assess in real time what is happening in the EM and cyber environment, predict how the environment will react and use this knowledge to guide our own actions. Building this level of awareness will be challenging. Our tools for collecting and analyzing information in the EM and cyber environment are limited, and we lack the familiarity and understanding to take full advantage of the information we do have. To build better tools for sensing the EM and cyber environment, we will work closely with industry and academic researchers.
Second, we will employ agility in the EM spectrum and cyberspace. This will reduce our vulnerability to detection and maximize our ability to defeat jamming and deception. If our systems can shift frequency over a wide range, use shorter “burst” transmissions, employ small directional beams, or move applications between servers automatically in response to a sensed anomaly, our EM and cyber operations would be less predictable, harder to classify, and more difficult to counter or disrupt. One example of this is our “Integrated Topside” project, which uses modular, reconfigurable antennas in a ship’s superstructure that can be alternatively employed as radars, listening devices, or radios.
Finally, we will change how we view the role of EM and cyber in warfare. EM and cyber systems and operators won’t just support air, land, and space operations as they did in previous conflicts. Aircraft and ships will instead help get our EM and cyber capabilities into the fight. This will require developing the same “real-time” flexibility in planning and executing EM and cyber operations as we have today in the traditional “physical” domains.
Warfare in the EM spectrum and cyberspace is much more challenging than in other domains such as undersea or in the open ocean. The web and spectrum are crowded with civilian and commercial users who are rapidly developing and fielding new technologies. To take the high ground in this new environment, we will have to work with industry and fundamentally change our approach to operations and warfare. Most importantly, we will leverage those strengths that are impossible to reverse-engineer: the expertise and flexibility of our research base, our history of adaptation, and the skill and perseverance of our Sailors.
WASHINGTON: The cheerfully controversial James “Hoss” Cartwright, retired vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke Friday in an intimate and academic setting that allowed the retired Marine Corps fighter pilot to muse aloud about subjects from the Civil War to quantum computing, from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (he’s a skeptic) to aircraft carriers (they’ll endure). Gen. Cartwright even put in a good word for the People’s Republic of China. The focus of his talk, however, was what he considered unappreciated dangers and opportunities in cyberspace.
OK — before anyone gets grumpy because they can’t understand the Arabic, this is just a bit of shameless promotion on a Friday about a skein of very serious subjects — hacking, cyber espionage and cyber warfare.
Sky News Arabia interviewed me recently after reading my piece on how China recruits hackers to cast the broadest net in its cyber espionage efforts. Basically, I sketched out the extent of cyber theft of intellectual property, using Gen. Alexander’s figure of $1 trillion over the last five years at a rate of roughly $300 billion each year. Most of that is done by the Chinese, with the Russians, Israelis and others trailing far behind. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The People’s Liberation Army regularly outsources its hacking, encouraging and co-opting young Chinese programmers to hack and steal information for the greater glory of China’s ruling elite and the state, Breaking Defense has learned.
While very few people will discuss details of the operations, three sources with direct knowledge of the Chinese attacks say that a signficant portion of the $300 billion worth of intellectual property that was stolen last year from the United States — mostly by China — is extracted by programmers who do not wear military uniforms and are not directly employed by China’s enormous espionage enterprise. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Since 9/11, the armed services have made great strides in applying information technology to warfare — but their implementation to date has relied on costly, manpower-intensive “brute force,” said the Navy’s director for “information dominance,” Rear Adm. William Leigher. As budgets tighten, he said, the services will have no choice but to operate more efficiently and, above all, more cooperatively with one another.
“This is going to force us to take a different approach with jointness,” Leigher told the audience at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) luncheon yesterday. Under the growing fiscal pressure, he said, consolidation of separate networks to a single “joint information environment [JIE] becomes more possible in this downturn … than it might have been.”
It’s hard to think about the future, though, when you don’t know how much money you’ll have next month. With the automatic cuts known as sequestration set to start March 1st, and the Continuing Resolution funding the government expiring March 27th, all the services are frantically cutting back on costs. That includes conferences and speaking engagements requiring travel: “For those of you who expected a panel, I’m your panel,” said Leigher, the sole speaker left on the day’s agenda.
The real near-term damage is to military readiness, with the Navy cancelling ship maintenance and even deployments overseas — most dramatically of the aircraft carrier USS Truman. But modernization programs will feel the pain as well, said Leigher: While major procurements are often funded years in advance, smaller improvements are routinely installed during maintenance “availabilities” now being cancelled.
For example, eight warships won’t be upgraded as scheduled with a new shipboard network called CANES (Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services). That’s a single system meant to replace the no less than five separate networks, each serving a different purpose, currently installed on the typical warship.
Five networks on one ship is just a simple example of the inefficient kludges characteristic of today’s military information technology. Information pouring back from high-tech drones, for example, hits a low-tech chokepoint at analysis centers doing the “processing, exploitation, and dissemination” (PED), Leigher said, where the chief method of sifting through that data is entire rooms full of “22-year-old sailors” sitting and staring at screens for hours, watching for the one moment of life-or-death significance in hours of data.
“We throw people at the problem,” said Leigher. “People are the most expensive thing [in the military budget]. There’s got to be different ways we can attack this.”
What the military really needs is “better artificial intelligence,” said Leigher, able to sort through the information overload, identify patterns and anomalies, and only pass what matters on to the human analysts.
The ultimate goal, said Leigher, is a single seamless network sharing intelligence, targeting data, and commands among manned and unmanned assets from every service — yet without today’s dependence on satellite communications systems that can be hacked or shot out of orbit by a high-tech adversary (translation: China).
After decades of the Navy thinking about platforms — ships, planes, satellites — “I’m seeing the change,” said Leigher: “We really are talking about network warfighting capbilities” in a way the military wasn’t just a few years ago. And that change goes across services, especially between the Navy and the Air Force under their AirSea Battle initiative. “You really can’t look at this in a vacuum with the Navy,” he said, but instead must build in links to joint air operations centers and to so-called “5th generation” fighters like the Air Force F-22 and the F-35, which the Air Force, Navy, and Marines will all fly.
One project Leigher singled out was the awkwardly named NIFC-CA (pronounced “Nifca”), short for Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air. Intended to coordinate defense against incoming enemy aircraft and missiles, NIFC-CA was begun to connect Navy fighters, shipboard radars, missile launchers, and reconnaissance aircraft like the E-2C. In September, however, the Navy and Army ran a test together at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, where a NIFC-CA connection allowed a Navy SM-6 Standard missile to intercept a target using data from an Army radar blimp called JLENS (Joint Land Attack Elevated Netted Sensor).
That kind of connectivity, Leigher said, “is really the first time we’ve approached what AirSea battle talks about, network integrated attack.”
Ultimately, the admiral said, the cutting edge of the new combat network will be unmanned platforms that can fight, not just collect intelligence. “This is where it all comes together,” he said, showing a slide of the experimental X-47 drone: artificial intelligence, weapons, targeting, command and control, and networks with the bandwidth to tie it all together.
At the same time, Leigher acknowledged, America’s omnipresent new technology creates a vulnerability as well — one that will require constant effort to secure. “These things,” he said, holding up his smartphone, “will keep me in business forever.”
And the challenges aren’t just technological. “Where I feel a little bit uncomfortable, as a guy that grew up in the intelligence community, is about what this means for privacy,” Leigher said. “We’ve got to be very careful as we go forward to protect individual rights, because it’s very easy to cross the line.”
Edited at 9:40 am, Feb. 21 to add term “Processing, Exploitation, & Dissemination.”
WASHINGTON: After months in deep freeze, cybersecurity legislation is showing signs of life again on Capitol Hill. The spark behind this renewed activity is the long awaited executive order on cybersecurity, which President Obama signed Tuesday and was released today at a press conference at the Commerce Department.
The Obama Administration began working on the executive order after a comprehensive cybersecurity bill was defeated in the Senate last year. The order gets federal agencies to redouble their network defense capabilities and to share information about cyber attacks. A draft copy of the executive order obtained by Breaking Defense in November outlines many of the responsibilities that the White House wants government regulatory agencies to either continue to follow or improve, and it puts the Department of Homeland Security firmly in charge of the process. Keep reading →